The Vikings and 49ers have several common connections, but right now the 49ers are trying to fight their way through a number of important issues for the present and the future.
Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and San Francisco assistant head coach/defense Mike Singletary were teammates with the Chicago Bears, including on their Super Bowl XX team.
San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky played linebacker for the Vikings from 1991-93. Manusky was the position coach for Vikings linebacker Ben Leber when both were with the San Diego Chargers.
San Francisco backup quarterback Shaun Hill spent four seasons with the Vikings (2002-2005) after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent.
DT Kevin Williams got the first two sacks of his career when he brought down San Francisco quarterback Tim Rattay twice on Sept. 28, 2003 in a 35-7 victory over the 49ers.
The Vikings have played the 49ers five times in divisional playoff games, with four of those being in San Francisco. The 49ers are 4-1, having lost in 1987.
The Vikings shocked the 49ers in a 1987 Divisional Playoff game, winning 36-24 at Candlestick Park. Receiver Anthony Carter had 10 receptions for an NFL playoff-record 227 yards. San Francisco had the NFL's best regular-season record that year at 13-2.
The Vikings likely would rather forget their loss to the 49ers last season. Minnesota got a field goal on its opening drive and did not put any more points on the board. Running back Chester Taylor had 96 yards rushing on 26 carries and also caught eight passes for 45 yards.
The Viking and 49ers met twice a season for the first six years the Vikings were in the NFL. During that time (1961-66), Minnesota went 6-5-1 against San Francisco.
LB Patrick Willis was credited with 20 tackles against the Carolina Panthers after the 49ers' film review. According to the 49ers' tabulations, Willis has 173 tackles this season.
He likely will face his stiffest challenge of the season on Sunday, as he faces the NFL's leading rusher, Vikings rookie RB Adrian Peterson.
Willis and Peterson are the clear favorites to be the NFL's defensive and offensive rookies of the year based on the first 12 games of the season.
"Our goal every week is to hold them to under 100 yards and stop whoever we're playing," Willis said. "That's our goal every week with everybody. We need a good week of preparation."
The 49ers have a decision to make with QB Alex Smith in the offseason. There is an $8 million buyback in his contract. If the 49ers pay the money, it will void the final two years of his contract: 2009 and 2010.
Smith was guaranteed $24 million as part of the six-year, $49.5 million contract he signed with the 49ers in 2005.
"As all contracts do, there's a point in there where you actually pay a certain fee to have the right to maintain the remainder of the contract," Nolan said.
When asked if the 49ers have decided their course of action with Smith, Nolan answered, "Those discussions are all after the season. We have not had any discussions with respect to that, during this season, right now. Again, that's because it's not the time for that. As I say often, there's a time and a place. Those are after-the-season discussions, they aren't now."
QB Trent Dilfer still has the confidence of the locker room, despite his spotty performances filling in for Smith.
When asked to compare Dilfer and Smith, second-year TE Vernon Davis said Dilfer has better leadership skills.
"Dilfer's been around a lot longer," Davis said. "He's more of a leader than Alex. Alex is good, but he still has some growing to do. Dilfer sees things differently than him."
Nolan has also been supportive of Dilfer. Recently, he said Dilfer's games against the Rams and Cardinals ranked Nos. 1 and 2 among games from 49ers quarterbacks during his tenure as coach. Smith has started 30 games for the 49ers during that stretch.
"As a football team, you have to play together collectively in order to win the game. We're not doing that," Nolan said. "I believe that Trent (Dilfer), as far as playing quarterback, puts his heart and soul into everything he does. It's evident every time he goes on the field. I admire that, and I think that he's given us the chance to win the games that he's played in. It takes an entire unit to make it work; it's not all on one person's shoulders."
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky left the team to return to Pennsylvania after the death of his father, Frank, who was 72. Nolan said he would assume Manusky's duties while he's gone.
"Before he left, we talked about the plan; we'll talk about it when he gets back," Nolan said at mid-week. "So as far as calling games, things like that, it is Greg's responsibility. But we'll visit more about that again. With what he's going through, I'm not going to put him in a situation where he's not prepared and that our team isn't."
LB Jeff Ulrich performed so well on special teams and in practice through the early potion of the season that he continued to find more and more of a role on defense. Ulbrich was a starter throughout his career before getting replaced in the starting lineup in the middle of last season. However, now he has carved out a significant role for himself in the team's "big sub" defensive package. The alignment is generally used on second downs when the yardage is medium range. It is used when the offense has the option to run or pass.
The 49ers figure to use that defense a lot this week against the Vikings because of their threat of a run game. Even in long-yardage situations, the 49ers will need to keep an eye on RB Adrian Peterson.